SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Chaos in Marawi City is seen by residents as never ending even after government troops will have wiped out all members of the terrorist Maute Group.
This scenario surfaced after a new shadowy group that calls itself as Meranaw Victims Movement (MVM) was born on Monday and posted online several demands for restoration of normalcy in Marawi City and in the province of Lanao del Sur.
The members of the MVM introduced themselves to fellow Meranaw, instead of the usual spelling Maranao, as sons and brethren who are among evacuees from Marawi City.
They said some of them have relatives among the civilians who perished in clashes that began on May 23 and what is more hurting, according to them, is that their kin’s remains are yet to be retrieved from the war zone.
“It’s almost four months now that we have been seeking shelter in evacuation centers or among our relatives’ homes in different towns,” the MVM said in a statement.
It added that some of the evacuees have passed away while many others fell sick, prompting its members to unite and call the group as the Meranaw Victims Movement.
The group said their movement is dedicated to help in fighting for rights of the Bangsa Meranaw whose dignity was trampled upon by the siege of Marawi by the Maute Group.
The MVM added that it does not approve the use of Marawi City as sanctuary by any group.
It said that it finds unacceptable the actions of the government that caused the displacement of tens of thousands and deaths of several civilians from aerial bombings and use of heavy armaments, which are among the prohibited practices under International Humanitarian Law.
Local leaders blamed
The MVM said its holds past and present local leaders responsible for failing to prevent the Maute Group from carrying out its plan since they were fully aware of the group’s presence in the city prior to the siege and for literally forsaking civilians.
It added that it is dismayed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) since nothing has been heard from the group, nor has it made a categorical position on the current Marawi crisis.
The MVM’s demands:
“First, we would like to ask our kinsfolk from among the so-called IS/Maute Group to leave Marawi City at once and free their hostages, Muslims and Christians alike.”
Second, we would like to ask the government, especially President Rodrigo Duterte, the following:
1. Allow the civilians to return to their homes in areas in Marawi City that were already cleared by the military;
2. Stop the aerial bombings of Marawi City if only to salvage houses or buildings that may not have been destroyed yet;
3. Stop the abuses of some military and police personnel at checkpoints and accord respect to civilians, especially the women;
4. Ease access to and from Marawi City, especially the roads through Barangay Maliwanag so that people in the First District of Lanao del Sur would have better and convenient access;
5. Secure the remains of civilians so they may not be mixed with the garbage in the process of military clearing operations and so that they may be given proper burial even if only skeletons are left of them;
6. Provide immediate appropriate material and financial support to all wounded civilian victims similar to the support being provided by the government to wounded military and police personnel;
7. Compensate for the damaged houses and buildings, wasted goods and merchandise of civilians and provide for their livelihood as well;
8. Rebuild or rehabilitate the mosques and madrasahs and other destroyed structures that represented the Meranao culture and heritage;
9. Importantly, the government should not make any hint that it would occupy the land of the Meranaws on the basis of military reservation, instead it should help legitimate owners to have their respective land titles; and
10. For the military and PNP [Philippine National Police] personnel to avoid occupying mosques and madrasahs.
Third, we demand from our local political leaders to account for all the relevant government funds such as the calamity fund and all assistance and donations and ensure transparent and equitable implementation or spending of the same.
Fourth, we are enjoining the MILF to support the foregoing demands by ensuring that these reach all those concerned.
‘Heed our call’ or else
The MVM warned that in case IS/Maute Group kinsfolk “would not heed our call, we would be compelled to face you because by then you no longer care for the welfare of the people and you did not only fail to realize but have violated the essence of jihad in Islam.
It also warned the government, “This will be the last time that we will ask in relation to previous demands of various sectors of the Meranaw society, and that if the foregoing demands will fall on deaf ears, likewise, we will be compelled to fight for our rights that have been trampled upon and that jihad becomes our legitimate recourse.”
To Maranao leaders, the MVM said, “Should we find out that you defraud or corrupt the assistance and support intended for the evacuees, we will unrelentingly pursue until we take them for the people in whatever means possible.”
To the MILF, it said, “Take note that the demand for the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) becomes irrelevant if the key area where it should be implemented would no longer be in the hands of the Meranaw, and that by then the support of the people of Lanao becomes weak in the time that you need it.”
Finally, this is what it asked from fellow Meranaw:
“For the longest time, our people had not experienced this kind of most demeaning crisis, especially the utter destruction of Marawi City, a rendezvous for the Four Principalities/Royalties of Lanao.
“Indeed, let us accept this crisis as a tribulation for our sins and omissions. Let’s go back to Allah and seek atonement for our sins, and let us stop all our wrong or evil ways, small and big alike.
“It’s almost four months now that we have been waiting for any groups or individuals who would take the cudgels for our land and our people but it seems none is coming.
“Henceforth, even we are weak in terms of arms and less in number, we leave our fate in the power of Allah for He knows what’s in our hearts and that we are just following His commands. We find it unacceptable to have a future history of Marawi City being lost by the Meranaw people of this generation, hence our conviction to stand for it and fight for the rights of the people now.”
The MVM tried to boost the morale of all Maranao.
“Do not lose hope. For us, we will not stop until we are able to go back home to Marawi and be able to avail of our rights in full.
“The fate of this effort depends on you, especially those who truly care for our land and the people.
“Please help us with your prayers so that Allah will help us because no one has control over anything except Him and that all powers come from Him.”
WITH REPORT FROM AL JACINTO